Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
They have had their individual successes at A.C.T., Bay Area Musicals, Center REPertory Company, Hillbarn Theatre, the Pear Theatre, and San Jose Stage Company, but She Loves Me marks their fourth show together at San Francisco Playhouse. I chatted with Adams and Hafen, both 28, about how this award-winning company provided the "romantic atmosphere" for them to become more than "dear friends."
Wayman Wong: Congrats on She Loves Me! How would you describe the show and the character you play?
Monique Hafen: It has a lovely book [by Joe Masteroff] and the music is gorgeous. I'd say Amalia is headstrong and stubborn, a lot like me. [Laughs.] She knows what she wants and does it with kindness, even though Georg doesn't always see it that way. She's a go-getter.
Jeffrey Brian Adams: She Loves Me is a feel-good romantic comedy with beautiful music and lyrics. I play Georg, who's a hard worker and all-around good guy. He butts heads with Amalia because he's a little headstrong, and so is she. He's also spontaneous and passionate. Georg is writing letters to a woman he doesn't know, and he's a hopeless romantic, which I can absolutely relate to.
Wong: Georg and Amalia meet as pen pals. How did you two meet?
Hafen: We met at an audition [for theater scholarships] at Santa Clara University [in 2006]. I thought Jeffrey was the most handsome person I had ever seen and was super intimidated by him. I saw him later at the campus bookstore and ducked behind a clothing rack.
Adams: This beautiful blonde girl introduced herself, and it was Monique. She was friendly and funny. Monique also has one of the best [singing] voices I've ever heard. We became fast friends and did shows together, like Thoroughly Modern Millie. I also encouraged her to join Inoperable Humor, the improv group on campus. She is a total goofball, and we loved to make each other laugh.
Hafen: But we didn't date back then. He had a girlfriend, and I had a boyfriend. We were never single and available at the same time.
Wong: What brought you back together years later?
Hafen: We kept in contact, and Jeffrey went to grad school in New York. I was doing Into the Woods [at San Francisco Playhouse], and I was playing Cinderella. Then, the guy playing my Prince dropped out of the show, so I asked Jeffrey if he'd like to audition. He sent in a video to Susi Damilano [who was directing Into the Woods and now is directing She Loves Me]. The whole time, I had my fingers crossed, praying in bed every night that he would get cast and come. I knew we were both single and I thought: "This is my chance!"
Adams: So I submitted a video and sang a couple of songs. And Susi told Monique, "Hey, you've found your Prince!" Monique called me with the good news, and I was so thrilled to come home and work here. All my family is here [in San Jose]. And the cool thing is that my parents, who are also San Jose natives, saw their first show as a married couple at the same theater [where the Playhouse is now].
Wong: What was the romantic turning point?
Hafen: We were in rehearsals for Into the Woods, and it was wonderful to work with Jeffrey again. He's such a generous actor and connects with you onstage. It was heart-pounding. Anyway, we went to see a show at Santa Clara, our alma mater. And I told my girlfriends, "I'm gonna tell Jeffrey that I've been in love with him for the past eight years. I have to tell him!" Before I could do it, Jeffrey told me, "I've been in love with you for the past eight years." He said everything I was gonna say. He was so charming. Then, we kissed.
Adams: I fought [being a couple] for awhile. I didn't want to ruin our good friendship. I didn't even know how long I'd stay in the Bay Area. But anytime I went anywhere, I truly left my heart in San Francisco with hers. Monique's phenomenal. Into the Woods was magical for us in so many ways. So I took that risk and went for it. And two years later, we're still going great.
Hafen: Definitely Amalia and Georg. In college, we had spats about classes and rehearsals. We didn't always get along, but we secretly loved each other. I won't give it away, but the ending of She Loves Me is so much like our relationship. Georg says something like, "I found you irresistible actually," and she says, "Why didn't you ever say anything?" Jeffrey and I have had that conversation many times.
Wong: Which other musical-theater couples would you love to play?
Hafen: Jamie and Cathy in The Last Five Years. Zak Resnick and Margo Seibert just did it at A.C.T. and they were amazing. But Jeffrey understudied Zak. He got to go on, and he was incredible. I love that show, and Jeffrey and I want to do it together someday.
Wong: She Loves Me plays now through January 14. What's your next engagement? And could it include a ring?
Hafen: You'll have to talk to Jeffrey about that. I'm leaving it up to him.
Adams: I'll say this: I wouldn't be with someone if I didn't see them with me and my family for life. And I've found that in Monique.
Wong: Finally, what has San Francisco Playhouse meant to you?
Adams: San Francisco Playhouse has been an incredible blessing for us. Monique's been working with them for five years. The Playhouse really gave her her start. For me, they brought me home. They've given me the roles of a lifetime and more than that, a community, a family to be part of. In the theater, that's huge. But most of all, they reconnected me with Monique and gave me the girl of my dreams.
She Loves Me plays now through January 14, 2017, at San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Box office: (415) 677-9596. Website: sfplayhouse.org. For more information about Adams and Hafen, visit jeffreybrianadams.com and moniquehafen.com.